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A Diamond in the Desert

Las Vegas Ballpark’s sparkling playing surface is designed to beat the heat

Anyone who has installed even the smallest patch of backyard sod knows that keeping it alive in the dead of the Las Vegas summer can be as difficult as hitting a 95-mph fastball. Now imagine trying to maintain a lawn that covers 2½ acres … and is subjected to the running, jumping, diving and sliding of professional baseball players … over the course of 72 games played from April through early September.

Well, now you’re talking about trying to hit a 95-mph fastball while blindfolded. Yet this is the challenge facing Collin Doebler and his crew. Doebler is the senior turf manager for BrightView Sports Turf, which was responsible for installing—and now maintaining—the spectacular playing surface at Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the Las Vegas Aviators.

Doebler spent the past four years doing field maintenance at Cashman Field, which was home to Las Vegas’ Triple-A ballclub for its first 36 seasons. While at Cashman, Doebler oversaw a partial field renovation that featured the use of Bandera Bermuda grass, an aggressive-growing blend that’s known to survive the hot, dry climates and summer monsoons synonymous with the Las Vegas Valley.

The grass performed so well at Cashman that, back in June 2018, Doebler and the Aviators selected Bandera Bermuda for the 103,000-square-foot playing surface at Las Vegas Ballpark. A farm in Phoenix was commissioned to grow the grass until harvest, after which it was shipped to the ballpark and installed over three days in mid-March.

“The Bandera Bermuda produces a very nice green color, and for the players it will produce a much smoother, firmer playing surface,” Doebler says. “Cashman was an older field, but even for its age, the [combination of] grass we used performed really well for both baseball and soccer. But now we have a homogeneous playing surface at Las Vegas Ballpark—it’s all Bandera Bermuda. So we’ll be able to manage it as one turf type, which will be really nice.”

And despite the scorching summer sun that bakes Southern Nevada from sunup to sundown, Doebler is confident sustaining the field’s emerald-green will require fairly basic maintenance. “We’ll mow and irrigate daily, and fertilize every 10-14 days so we can get through the season successfully,” he says. “One thing I noticed when we were at Cashman was the repair was minimal. It can withstand a lot of wear and tear.”

That probably explains why Bandera Bermuda is the variety of choice for many sports venues up and down California, including Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Angel Stadium in Anaheim and Petco Park in San Diego. Baseball fans who attend games at those ballparks are always greeted by a lush, impeccably manicured field that serves as the centerpiece for a picturesque evening of baseball, and Doebler expects Aviators fans will be treated to a similar visceral experience each time they enter Las Vegas Ballpark.

“You always hear people say that when they first walk into a stadium, the first thing they notice is the grass,” Doebler says. “That’s what we’re shooting for—we want fans to notice a beautiful playing field and say, ‘Our team plays on the best field in the league.’”

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